Good morning and welcome to another week of the offseason! Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend. He is Risen!
Getting to another D3 WBB update…there was some notable news in the world of coaching towards the end of last week. I’m also anticipating a few more head coaching hires to be made in the coming week, though time will tell. Several jobs remain open, the most notable being the head coaching positions at Loras and Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The first head coaching hire came in the Pacific Northwest, when George Fox University hired an alum in Lauren Howard to lead the program. Howard, who played for the Northwest Conference program from 2013-2015, was a key cog in the Bruins’ run to the D-III national title game in 2014-15, starting all 33 games on a team that went 32-1.
With that background, this hire makes sense. This is a program that could be competitive in what is a somewhat wide-open league and went 11-14, 8-8 (NWC) this past season. I don’t see this being a major rebuild for Howard, and she will have a great recruiting base there in the western part of Oregon. Plus, as previously mentioned, she has seen this program at its peak and knows what it takes at this school specifically to reach that point. That is very valuable. I really like this hire.
Howard comes back to George Fox from D-I Portland, where she was the Director of Basketball Operations. Last season, Portland reached the NCAA Tourney for the first time in 26 years. Pretty impressive stuff. Howard was a high school head coach prior to that, so she has both collegiate coaching experience and high school head coaching experience. Now it’s about combining those two things.
The second head coaching hire of the week came in the WIAC, where Shelby Lyman was promoted to head coach at UW-River Falls after serving as the interim for the entirety of the past season. A four-year member of the coaching staff at UWRF, Lymna was promoted to the interim HC job from her assistant coaching role following the departure of former head coach Blake DuDonis, who took an assistant coaching role at D-I Fairfield. UWRF fought hard within a very deep conference this past season, posting a 14-11 record and 4-10 mark in WIAC play. Amongst the highlights of the 2022-23 campaign, UWRF took down UW-Whitewater and UW-Eau Claire, both NCAA Tournament teams.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to lead this program and grateful for the support and belief that Crystal Lanning and Kellen Wells-Mangold have in myself and our staff,” Lyman said in a UWRF press release. “I love River Falls, I love being able to work with our incredible student-athletes day in and day out and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Falcon women’s basketball.”
UWRF had four seniors on its roster this past season, including two of the three who started all 25 games for the Falcons. However, both Julia Seidel and Annie Feine, who started 15+ games for UWRF, are likely to return for the upcoming season. There is the possibility that some or all of the four seniors will return, including Macy Nilsen, who has played four collegiate seasons and was named All-WIAC last month.
Well, Birmingham-Southern College (out of the Southern Athletic Association) will survive a little bit longer, per an announcement by the college’s Board of Trustees on Thursday of last week. It was decision day for the institution, located in Birmingham, Ala., as students, faculty, and staff were allowed into a meeting announcing the future of the university.
If BSC was unable to pull together ample funding, it would have been forced to close its doors following the spring, which would have been a travesty, considering their athletics have been decently good in recent years, led by its baseball team, ranked #1 in the nation. However, the board announced it received $46M from private donors. While this does not mean the school is safe for the next decade, it does give the school more time to reach its goal of a $200M endowment. The fundraising process will continue, but we will have BSC around for at least another year.
The WBB program was decent in the SAA this season, known for its fast-paced style of play and 95.7 points per game, which ranked No. 1 nationally. The team posted a 13-13 record with a 6-8 mark in SAA play, under 7th-year head coach Mike Ricks. Recruiting has likely been difficult, as the financial situation was public dating back to December.
Hopefully Thursday’s news will allow Ricks and his staff to bring in a quality freshman class. Although, the future of BSC is still in doubt, which is still going to make recruiting difficult until the school is on more solid ground.
Scranton scored pretty big on the recruiting front with Rider (D-I) transfer Victoria Toomey, who played in 20+ games for all four years of her time at Rider. She’ll be a grad transfer to head coach Ben O’Brien’s squad, and there’s a connection there, as Toomey played for O’Brien at Dunmore high school. It is not often you see players who started at the D-I level transfer to a D-III, but it does happen on occasion. Toomey not only started but averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this past season. At 6’2, she could be a game-changer for Scranton and have the sort of impact Katie Titus had at Rochester this past year. We shall see.
Hope also picked up commitments from Class of 2024 prospects in Leah and Anna Richards. From talking with a couple people, the program they play for at Lansing Catholic is top-level in the state of Michigan (Reigning D-II state champs), and there are some Hope connections there. Brian Morehouse continues to score big with top-level high school players in the western Michigan area, and to get commitments this soon is also fairly impressive.
That’s all I have on this Monday morning. Plan to check in later in the week as I’m willing to bet something notable will come up. Something news-worthy always seems to show up, even as we look into a calendar with six straight months of no games! We shall see. In the meantime, have a great week and as always, feel free to email me at email@example.com with tips/feedback/thoughts or DM me on Twitter (@ZayasRiley).